Volleyball – Line Judge Protocols

Line judges have specific protocols to guide their positioning at the start of the match, during timeouts and when the server takes a position near them during the serving action.

During the national anthem and team announcements at the start of an NFHS match, the officiating team (two referees and two line judges) is near the first referee’s stand facing the scorer’s table. The first referee will stand just outside the sideline immediately to the left of the referee stand closest to the net (looking from the scorer’s table), and the line judge on that sideline will be to the first referee’s right near the attack line. The second referee will be on the right side of the stand with the line judge from the bench sideline positioned to the second referee’s left. They will face the flag and stand at attention during the national anthem and then face the court during player introductions. Line judge flags should be placed on the referee stand during that time. After the first referee whistles to direct teams onto the court, each line judge walks along the perimeter of the court to his or her respective corners.

During timeouts, it is suggested that the line judges take a position on the first referee’s side of the court near the stand as shown in the MechaniGram. They should first allow the teams to clear the court and then move to a position at the intersection of the sideline and attack line on the first referee’s side of the court. Each should follow his or her respective endline and/or sideline to that position as opposed to walking across the court. Each departs that position as teams begin to break their huddles, again following the sideline and endline back into position.


When a server takes a position in the service zone that is near a line judge’s base position, the line judge should step backward along the imaginary extension of the sideline in order to avoid obstructing the server’s view or inhibiting the service attempt. That allows the line judge to focus on the sideline during the serve while the first referee pays attention for a possible foot fault by the server. Per the rule changes (see p. 59), NFHS is now allowing the line judge (if instructed by the first referee) to take a position on the imaginary extension of the endline until the service is contacted to have a better view of possible foot faults when a server serves from near the line judge’s base position. That alternate position is only needed if the server is within approximately six feet of the line judge. Once the ball has been contacted by the server, the line judge should return to the corner and focus on the ensuing rally.

Baseball – Which Strike Do I Get?


By Don Umland

An old adage that we hear from time to time is, “When in doubt, call ’em out.”

While that is a myth that shouldn’t be followed for plays on the bases, perhaps there is a bit of truth in that when referring to the opportunity to “ring one up” versus the alternative of asking your partner for help on a checked swing.

Typically, the checked swing appeal is not received with great enthusiasm, especially when the pitch has already been called a ball and the base umpire overturns the decision. Depending on the number of officials working the game, the decision regarding “did he go” may have to be rendered from the middle of the diamond, which is not the ideal location for determining if a swing has occurred or not.

One thing that complicates ruling on a swing is that the rules are different for each level. The NFHS rule is whether the batter actually struck at the ball (10-1-4a). In NCAA, it is whether the barrel of the bat passes the batter’s front hip (2-38). The pro rulebook is silent on what determines a swing.

So what is the best option when we have a checked swing that appears to the plate umpire that he did “go” but would also be a strike had he not attempted to swing?

The obvious check swing is easy. Make the proverbial point at the batter and check one off against the hitter.

However, a significant number of checked swings are not that easy. There are pros and cons for going with one decision over the other:

The called strike. The called strike eliminates any delay in the decision-making process.

That can prove beneficial for the game, since the decision is final. Defensive players know how to play on runners. And those runners know they are in jeopardy if it was a potential ball four and they were running.

I also believe there is more credibility placed on the plate umpire for getting the pitch right in the first place. Keep in mind we are dealing with swings that may or may not be ruled a strike (not the no-brainer swing). So by getting the strike, the umpire will retain credibility as opposed to risking it when the base umpire rules the batter did not go. Nothing gets a pitching coach more upset than having a close pitch called a ball and the checked swing ruled the same way. Two opportunities for a strike to be called and neither happens.

The swing. Along the same line, an offense will be bothered if you get a pitch it doesn’t think was a strike, especially if the angle from the team’s dugout looked like the batter didn’t go.

If you are going to call the swing from behind the plate, you have to be right. It’s better on the marginal checked swings to ask for help.

Yes, that puts pressure on our partner that we’d rather avoid, but he’s got a job to do as well.

Often the bench may have a better “view” than the base umpire, especially if the official is in the middle of the diamond or if a left-handed hitter is up and U1 is working on the first-base line. The perception of coaches is that base umpires cannot get a good “look” at the swing from those locations. Ironically, if the opposing team does not get the appeal call it desires, the bench will make it known that you should have “gotten it yourself.” Essentially it creates a no-win situation.

There is no conclusive answer for that situation. But discussions with peers have led me to believe that the concept of getting the pitch first and the swing second can prevent larger issues regarding balls and strikes.

Don Umland lives in Bettendorf, Iowa, and officiates college and high school baseball, football and basketball.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 12/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Feature – Mad About the Media


As the public sees plays repeatedly on TV, the scrutiny of officials increases, and more and more spokespersons for officials have gone on camera in different sports. What are the media’s responsibilities toward officials and vice-versa?

By Matt Moore

Imagine participating in a discussion group about cooking techniques and one of the people you are chatting with is renowned chef Emeril Lagasse.

Lagasse makes a point about a cooking technique and another member of your group — someone who has never cooked professionally, but instead spent his life barbecuing in the backyard, drinking beer and sometimes going out to Olive Garden for fine Italian food — criticizes Lagasse’s comment and tells him he’s wrong. Completely wrong.

Now imagine if that discussion were broadcast on television for millions of people to watch. In all likelihood, Lagasse would be revered and the critic would be shown to be the fraud he is.

Now, instead of a cooking demonstration, the discussion is about sports officiating. And instead of Lagasse, the experts are former high-level officials, current officiating coordinators or state association executives.

And instead of the backyard chef, the critic is a member of the media who is paid to be either a commentator on games or a so-called expert on all things sports.

Instead of the reaction being the same — the professional is revered and the guy on the sidelines is exposed — the veteran is left defending his position and the sideline guy is believed by players, fans and everyone else involved in the game.

The cooking demonstration isn’t real, but the officiating one is all too real.

In a 2013 Sports Officiating Summit discussion titled, “Mad About the Media,” moderator Marcia Alterman led a discussion with panelists Steve Javie, Mark Hulsey, John Adams and Ralph Swearngin on the topic of the media’s increased focus on officiating.

The session opened with the scenario described as Javie, a former NBA referee and current ESPN analyst, offered a clip from an appearance on the cable network.

Javie, who spent 25 years in the league, appears on ESPN programming to discuss calls made during the postseason from the referee’s angle. The video he showed was from game six of the NBA Finals between Miami and San Antonio. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili drove through the lane in traffic with 2.4 seconds to play in the game. He wanted a foul but none was called.

Javie was a guest on First Take, a show that features outspoken commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, both former newspaper columnists.

During the clip, Javie explained what the referee saw (and didn’t see) on the play:

“OK, first let me explain exactly how officials look at this play,” he said on the TV show. “We have the last seconds of the game, a one-point game. The only official that can make this call is the official underneath the basket because Ginobili is going into traffic. Hugs the ball.

“Now, all the fans, what do they do? They watch where the ball is and they watch Ginobili, the offensive player. Ginobili gets compromised right away because if you’re an experienced official as this person is on the baseline, OK, watch him, he referees the defensive player, not the offensive player. …

“(The defender) put his hand on the ball first, gets contact with the ball first, which knocks the ball loose. Now once the ball becomes loose all bets are off. Ginobili is compromised. … (The referee) sees (the defender) enough where he sees hand on the ball first, ball comes loose, maybe hits the arm afterward, doesn’t matter after that. Once the ball is loose with the hand on the arm, no foul, correct no-call.”

Instead of the commentators being satisfied or appreciating the detailed play breakdown from Javie, they argue.

“Steve, with all due respect, I saw hand on flesh before hand on ball,” Bayless said.

“So did I,” Smith added, putting the expert in the position of now defending his detailed explanation against two people who have never refereed a game.

“I disagree with you,” Javie told both of them. “I’ve watched that play. I’m telling you we’re going to agree to disagree on this.”

And the conversation devolved from that point. So Javie was brought in as the expert and did a great job breaking down the play, and still had the talking heads disagree.

“That part didn’t really bother me because I figured that’s just them,” Javie said. “But they’re saying hand on the arm first. Well, they’re obviously watching a different tape than I am.”

Javie did point out that type of exchange hasn’t been the norm in his two seasons on the sports network.

“For the most part, being involved in TV, people really have their ears open,” Javie said. “And even just talking Refereeing 101 to some of them, whether it be a Doris Burke — who is a wonderful lady — she’ll sit there and go, ‘Really? You guys think that way or you talk that way?’ And I go, ‘Yes.’

“For the most part, except with two opinion guys like (Smith and Bayless), people are very accepting of wanting to know more about officiating.”

High Scrutiny

Officiating has come to the forefront of broadcasts in part because of the technology, according to Hulsey, vice president for production for the Big Ten Network. He’s also worked with Fox Sports and as the director of broadcasting for several professional teams.

“Ten years ago, you wouldn’t watch a Major League Baseball game with all of the technology,” he said. “Now, you can watch a local game and they’ve got pitch tracks of every pitch of the game.

“We have better angles, better equipment and everything is more scrutinized.”

In addition to the technology, Hulsey said, is the proliferation of sports on TV.

“Don’t forget, there’s more sports being televised now than at any point in our lifetime,” he said. “That unfortunately creates more potential scrutiny for the officials.”

One sport where the scrutiny has gone to its highest levels is the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Every game of the tournament — 69 of them in a span of four weeks — is televised nationally. In fact, for the duration of the tournament, Adams, the national coordinator of officials for men’s basketball, is in position to go live on the broadcast set at the whim of the networks that broadcast the tournament.

“For the first week of the tournament I’m stationed at Turner Sports in Atlanta ready to jump on the set when all hell breaks loose,” said Adams, himself a former official and conference coordinator. “The second week I’m at CBS in New York City ready to do the same thing. And then at the Final Four, I think they figure they’ll just have some guy come over with a camera on his shoulder and put it in my face and I try to explain what just happened.”

Adams is available because of Turner and CBS — the networks that pay for the event.

“I think the two of them combine to pay $650 million a year for 14 years,” he said. “But Turner put up 80 percent of the money, so they’re going to make 80 percent of the decisions.”

During the first weekend — the second and third rounds — Adams was brought on set to explain a late-game call in the Ohio State-Iowa State game. Iowa State led, 75-74, with less than two minutes to play and had the ball. The Cyclones’ Will Clyburg drove for a layup, but the Buckeyes’ Aaron Craft got into position at the last possible second and took a charge, resulting in a turnover as opposed to a three-point Iowa State lead.

The controversial part of the call — and why Adams was brought on set — was the position of Craft’s feet. Craft’s right heel was elevated, but appeared to be above the new restricted arc. By rule, even with Craft’s heel lifted, he was considered in the restricted area and couldn’t legally take a charge as a secondary defender; therefore, the call should have been a blocking foul, the basket good and Clyburg at the free-throw line for a free throw.

“By far,” said Adams, when referring to the block-charge aspect of that play being the toughest call in basketball to get correct, not even taking into account the restricted arc. Even the commentators on the set with him in Atlanta were agreeing with the “impossibility” of getting every aspect of the call correct.

Adams talked to the calling official after the game. “He told me he had the defender from Ohio State establishing legal guarding position before the shooter left the floor outside the restricted area.”

Adams went on to explain the referee’s responsibilities on the play, with the arc being the last thing an official would deal with.

“His number-one responsibility in that play is to make sure the shooter from Iowa State doesn’t get fouled,” Adams said. The official “stays with it all the way through until the ball is off his hand. Then (the official’s) focus shifts to the body contact. I’m not sure you ever have time to get back and look at the feet.”

Turner studio host Matt Weiner agreed with Adams’ assessment on the initial play, saying the arc did nothing but “enhances the difficulty of the call. It’s not like Craft is still moving or he didn’t get there in time. He got there in time to take the charge, it’s just his heel is above the arc.”

If that were the end of it, you’d think there was no issue between the media and the officials on that play, but instead, the broadcast then shifted to a different anchor desk in New York with host Greg Gumbel and three former players serving as analysts for CBS and the tournament as a whole.

“I will agree it was a difficult call and it’s understandably missed,” said Kenny Smith. “And make no mistake, reputation also plays a part. Guys who have, let’s say, a bad attitude are going to get technicals. Guys who are shot blockers get away with goaltending sometimes. Guys who take charges like Aaron Craft sometimes get the benefit of the doubt because he’s a charge taker.”

The “best” was saved for last with Charles Barkley. “Referees make mistakes, players make mistakes,” he ranted. “We call players out when they make mistakes. We call coaches out when they make mistakes. We call out referees when they make mistakes. And I don’t care what anybody in Atlanta, Tokyo or Hawaii says, that was a bad-ass call.”

During the Summit, Adams defended the official on that play.

“Number one, that guy got the play right. That was an incredible call and an incredible situation there,” Adams said. “There’s not a human being in the world, and maybe a few robots, that are going to get that play. You cannot humanly — it’s not possible to get that play. He got it right in my opinion.”

Rules 101 for Announcers

Adams has been more visible during the tournament than any of his predecessors, and that’s a growing trend with officials being involved with media before the events, trying to enlighten commentators about how officials do their jobs.

Hulsey commented that his network benefitted from having the coordinator of the conference’s football officials conduct a rules session.

“Bill Carollo came into our office and actually conducted a video seminar with all of our announcers and all of our producers and directors on the new targeting rule in college football which (was) going to be a very highly scrutinized rule (last) season,” Hulsey said. “We had that luxury; Bill was nice enough to come down and he had video examples. And I can tell you if our announcer teams … don’t know the rule or don’t go about it in the right way, they have no excuses after the seminar that Bill put on.”

Hulsey said it’s not only the on-air talent that needs to know the rules.

“It should be the number-one priority for anyone that goes on the air; you have to know the rules,” he said. “And the people in the truck need to know the rules, too, because those are the people that are forgotten in the process. Those are the people making those decisions what replay gets on the air. Will they show the definitive call in that first look of a replay? They have more power than you know.”

And that power leads to the criticism of officials, no matter how good of a job they do on a given play.

“The media is part of our officiating lives now, and we’re going to have to accept it,” said Adams. “It really kills me, because I truly believe that the officials for the most part probably get more plays right than any coach or any player ever does, and we get the most scrutiny.

“The question is, why do you think that players can sit there and shoot 45 percent for the game and have seven turnovers, no big deal? A coach can put the wrong play and timeouts and stuff, oh, OK fine. But a referee who maybe had a wonderful game going, that one play at the end, which I think he still gets right, why is it we just get killed on it? Why is it the referee and not the other people?”

Swearngin, the executive director of the Georgia High School Association and an NASO board member, said it is people assuming they are always right when they disagree with an official.

“I have become a card-carrying member of the assumption police,” he said. “I like to go around and blow up assumptions that everybody else seems to accept as fact. And one that the general public has and that media people have a lot is the fact that if they disagree with a call, the official blew the call.

“I think that what happens then by setting themselves up as the experts, whether they’re sitting at home watching or they’re in the stands or they’re on the TV set, we have that basic assumption, and that’s not right.”

The next assumption Swearngin referenced is that the camera will always have a better angle and pick up every part of the play.

“The camera angle is not the always the definitive angle,” he said. “Think about how many times you have heard people talk about the need to get the right angle to make the call. And our assumption sometimes is with all the cameras they’ve got that the camera angle is always going to give the definitive call, and that’s not true.”

Paralysis By analysis

Educating the media to all of the nuances that go into making a call, along with the applicable rules has been a challenge for a while. Having a standard that officials be perfect is just not tenable, according to Adams, who said there is an “acceptable percentage of errors.”

“When you talk about the hundred decisions that the three officials have to make in the course of a 40-minute basketball game, I can go through reams of data and tell you how good they are at getting the calls right,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s a guy that misses a shot, a guy that fumbles, a referee that maybe gets the call right, that’s sports. I don’t view it as a problem. I just view it as part of our industry. It isn’t getting any better.”

Javie agreed, while saying that he’s now a part of the media that analyze and overanalyze individual plays.

“It’s part of the landscape. It’s not coming out,” he said. “And it can benefit us too, now. Because now with Mike Pereira (of Fox Sports) opening the door and with Gerry Austin being on ESPN and myself, it opened the door for at least qualified people now to talk about plays and to say, ‘Hey, they were right or wrong for this reason.’”

And it’s better to have an experienced official or someone who has been in charge of officials do it than just the run-of-the-mill ex-coach serving as a game analyst.

“You have somebody who has done the job that’s commenting on some plays and not a Jeff Van Gundy or a Charles Barkley who has never refereed,” Javie said. “There’s some credibility there with the audience. But there’s a fine line also. We’re all human beings. We don’t want to be criticized even as officials. We all want to be right. And I know one thing, you hate when you miss plays, but also you hate being criticized.”

And criticism means sometimes saying that officials missed the calls.

“I know I’m going to have to be honest out there,” Javie said. “The funny thing is I think only twice (last) year did I disagree with a call. I didn’t sit there and say, ‘He blew the call,’ but I said it in a nice way.”

It’s a positive for the officiating industry that Javie, Pereira and Austin are invited to provide analysis from the side of officiating on network television. But because of the proliferation of broadcasts out there, the problem is more than just a national one, but also local.

Swearngin showed a clip from a webcast of a first-round playoff girls’ basketball game in which the commentators — likely students or former students without much professional training — critiqued the officiating at the end of a game, both for what was called and who made the call.

Swearngin quickly assessed that the two commentators had never officiated. “Not only were they critiquing the judgment,” he said. “But now, they’re critiquing the mechanics of who should have made that call.”

He said his state (as well as others) have rules in place to protect high school officials from critiques by players and coaches.

“Our coaches cannot comment on making negative calls about officiating in their game,” he said. “It’s a pretty large fine to the school for that. And if you have a contractual announcing relationship with the Georgia High School Association, you are not to be critical of officials’ calls.”

But most of those agreements dealt with radio, and now television. But there are more broadcasts than ever. “Now with webstreaming and this being a part of the school’s technology program, there’s no way we can really control the situation unless there’s some really bad situation that gets called to our attention.”

Along with locally produced webcasts, people write blogs that are critical of officials at every turn, Swearngin said. It makes it impossible to enforce their rule.

“Anybody who owns a computer now can be considering themselves a journalist,” he said. “A personal opinion by a blogger is something we can’t really control to protect the interest of our officials.”

Whether it’s words or video, the fact that things stay on the web for long — even an infinite amount of time — also causes problems.

Working With ’Em

Another tool that is available is working with the networks during broadcasts. Adams is able to watch all of the games going at one time during the tournament and if he sees an error, he can get word to the production team.

“I’m watching four games sometimes all at once, switching from game to game,” Adams said. “But when I hear or see a graphic that’s incorrect, I have a list of phone numbers to the truck where I can just turn to Lenny Daniels, the president of Turner Sports, who is sitting behind me and they’ll try to fix it right away. That’s pretty easy technology, you just have to catch it and then you can try to fix it.”

Hulsey employs a similar tactic during college football season.

“During a typical college football Saturday, we have multiple games going on,” he said. “If we have a question in regard to a call, we can always speak with (Carollo) or anybody on his staff to get further clarification if it’s a particular situation we’re just not certain about.”

He said that working for a network is a different scenario than working for a broadcast that is locally produced by an individual team.

“When I worked at the team level in the NBA, our announcers were employed by the team,” he said. “That’s different than network announcers who were employed by the network. You’ll watch some of these locally produced broadcasts and they’re in essence cheerleaders. And I think that leads to more potential scrutiny to the officials.”

Hulsey sees that it’s possible for local networks to eventually employ people to serve as officiating analysts.

“All these networks try to one up each other,” he said. “Mike (Pereira)was the first, Steve (Javie) and then it’s going to trickle down. Everyone wants the latest technology, the latest gear.”

One problem with that, however, is finding good people.

“And while we’ve just said that’s a good thing,” Alterman said, “after a while we could get some people in front of the camera that maybe we don’t want in front of the camera.”

That problem is most likely to occur in the non-mainstream sports, Alterman said. One, there aren’t as many broadcasts and second, the people who work for broadcast networks are not as likely to be knowledgeable about a sport such as volleyball.

“I watch Big Ten Network broadcasts of volleyball all the time and I’m going, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I could take those words back,’” Alterman said of hearing analysts talk. “We don’t have the opportunity to call in and correct.”

Interactive Communication

While the problems discussed so far relate to media not knowing or understanding the rules or what an officials sees, there can also be problems that are the fault of an official or a crew.

Hulsey brought a clip from the 2012-13 women’s basketball game between Penn State and Minnesota. The game featured multiple video reviews and ended up lasting almost three hours.

“There were many moments where we didn’t know what (the officials) were looking at,” Hulsey said of the reviews.

One of the reviews involved the officials checking to see if they had missed a potential flagrant one foul. Following that possible foul, play had continued and was stopped only after a common foul.

The announcer on the game made it seem she was trying to find out what was going on.

“We apologize we still have not figured out what the ruling is,” she said.

Debbie Antonelli, the color analyst said she was trying. “I’ve been standing up looking for their attention,” she said. “There must have been a flagrant foul call, a live-ball, intentional …”

Hulsey said that the broadcasters love to know what’s going on and they can relay that to the fans watching the game. Without it, the announcers are left to guess, and that causes problems.

“I believe the delay was close to seven minutes in that particular instance,” Hulsey said of the replay review. “It’s a difficult situation. I believe one of the officials should have run across to the folks, to Debbie Antonelli, and just said, ‘Debbie, this is what we’re looking at.’ It happens all the time.”

Adams agreed that is necessary, because it serves to benefit officials.

“I really believe that in this situation the media is not our enemy, it’s our friend,” he said. “And if we don’t go over and communicate, they’re going to say what they want to say.

“So wouldn’t you rather have them say what’s happening on the floor? And this way now, it’s communicated properly instead of assumptions. If there’s an unusual situation, don’t shy away from the media.”

Adams stressed, however, that officials are responsible to the game first. And only after the action should they explain.

Overall, the media scrutiny of officials isn’t going to go away. And it may affect our ability to recruit new officials, although Adams pointed out that there are bigger problems than media criticisms.

“I have two sons that tried to referee that were good players that really thought it would be fun,” he said. “And they couldn’t get past the first couple years of the crap that they took from coaches and parents. So by the time these guys are working games (that are broadcast), they’re well past that.

“The grassroots effort has to be instructing people to be civil at the junior high level and above. Otherwise, it just drives people out,” Adams said.

Javie thinks the good officials will overcome the scrutiny — not only from the media, but from the parents as well.

“I don’t think media scrutiny is in the forefront of somebody’s mind,” Javie said. “They either have it or they don’t have it. And they can either take the crap from the beginning or they can’t.”

Matt Moore is a Referee associate editor. He has been a baseball umpire for more than 25 years, mostly at the college and high school levels

Referee Magazine(This feature was published in the 04/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Softball – Keep an Eye on the Infield Fly


By Jay Miner

When it comes to the infield fly, we’re always reminded that the batter is automatically out when he or she hits a pop up (not a bunt) that can be caught by a fielder with ordinary effort in the infield with fewer than two outs and runners on first and second or the bases loaded.

Here are some simplified fundamentals with some quick tips and some recent infield-fly umpire blunders.

Play 1: R2 is on second base and R1 is on first with no outs when B1 hits a pop up in the infield. The umpires properly declare, “Infield fly! The batter is out!” R2 is 10 feet off second base and R1 is standing on first base when F6 prepares to catch the ball. However, the ball hits the heel of F6’s glove and drops to the ground. R2 does not retouch second and advances to third. R1 leaves first and advances to second and B1 stops on first. After the umpires inform B1 that she is out and remove her from first, the defensive team makes a proper appeal that R2 left second base without tagging up before advancing to third. The base umpire declares that R2 is out on appeal. Ruling 1: B1 is out and is correctly removed from first base. The appealed out on R2 was an error. Because the fly ball wasn’t caught, R2 was not required to tag up at second base before advancing to third. Both advances by R1 and R2 were legal. Play would resume with one out.

Play 2: On a cold, windy April day, Berne Knox varsity softball hosted a Schoharie League rival. Team B led by many runs and had runners on first and second with no outs in the top of the sixth inning. My longtime, semi-permanent partner, Don Willey, had the plate and I was on the bases. B3 hit a high fly about halfway between first and second. F3 pursued the ball but the strong wind carried it toward the first-base side of the pitcher’s circle. I glanced at Don and we both realized the ball was not likely going to qualify as an infield fly. We never declared an infield fly and despite her best effort, F3 was unable to touch the ball before it dropped safely to the ground. R2 advanced to third, R1 to second and B3 occupied first.

A large, irate man with a booming voice near team B’s bench yelled, “That’s an infield fly! You have to call that right away when the ball goes up!” Don recognized the man as a fellow basketball referee.

Ruling 2: Mild-mannered Don tried to placate his acquaintance, but the man continued his tirade that we should have called an infield fly. Though it’s usually best to ignore spectators, I realized we had to address his complaints before we could continue the game.

Initially, I was surprised by his outburst since our failure to call the infield fly benefited his team. Nevertheless, he continued to lecture us on his interpretation of the infield fly rule. I calmly told him that we can’t declare an infield fly until a fielder settles comfortably under the ball and that never happened. Then I assured him that the wind could have a bearing on whether we declared an infield fly and the wind was a factor in our not making the call.

When the man continued to disrupt our resumption of the game and now realizing he was a coach in another sport at the school, I assertively threatened him with ejection from the grounds. The pseudo coach then calmed down and we resumed and completed the game without fanfare.

On the way home Don and I could not recall any time when a team follower wanted an out declared against his team. We came to the conclusion that with his team almost positively guaranteed a win, he was hoping for quick outs from both teams to get the game over and escape the cold weather.  

The teaching moments of our experience were: 1. Don’t declare an infield fly until a fielder is settled comfortably under the ball. 2. Realize that wind can be a factor in deciding whether to call an infield fly. 3. An undeserved double play would not occur if the ball dropped safely to the ground.

Remember that while wind is considered before declaring an infield fly, the sun is never a factor in determining an infield fly even if it complicates the play for a fielder. The reasoning is that wind can carry a ball away from a fielder and that will not cause the defense to have the opportunity to obtain an undeserved double play. A ball lost in the sun and dropped near a fielder can easily result in an undeserved double play against offense without the protection of the infield fly rule.

Jay Miner is a longtime umpire, rules interpreter and former assigner from Albany, N.Y.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 11/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Football – Hesitation May Not Lead to Aggravation

Tips on how to react to post-play skirmishes


By George Demetriou

Whether it’s dry or wet, artificial or natural, the surface on which the game is played can have a marked influence on how the game is played and on specific plays. Muddy fields favor the running game. Many believe a slick field helps the players on offense because they know where they are going, while the defense doesn’t. When a runner slips and goes down by rule, no one credits the ground with the tackle. Instead, the closest defender gets the stat. There are several scenarios, though, in which the ground can be a factor.

The ground cannot cause a fumble. That’s an oft-spoken phrase in football. Actually the ground can cause a fumble under NCAA and NFHS rules even though there is no requirement for a runner to be down by contact. It would, however, be a very rare occurrence.

The veracity of that phrase lies in the fact that, 99.9 percent of the time, when the ball is freed from the runner’s grip as it hits the ground, the ball is already dead. It is dead because a part of the runner’s body other than a hand or foot had touched the ground before the ball touched the ground. That body part might be a knee, the side of a thigh or the forearm. Contact with the ground by any of those body parts causes the ball to become dead. Forward progress is marked at the foremost point of the ball when the contact with the ground occurred.

So how can the ground cause a fumble? While in a runner’s  possession, the ball contacts the ground before any part of the runner’s body other than a hand or foot, and that contact causes the runner to lose control of the ball, then indeed the ground has “caused” a fumble. As you can imagine it would be a most unusual play. The runner would have to either stumble and try to use the ball to regain his balance, he could “lay out” or be flipped heels over head, so that the ball contacts the ground before the rest of the runner’s body, other than perhaps, the free hand.

The ground can cause an incomplete pass. Catching a ball involves more than simply gaining control of it. It means gaining possession of the ball in flight and first coming to the ground inbounds (NFHS 2-4-1; NCAA 2-2-7). If an airborne player receives the ball and lands so his first contact is inbounds, he has caught the ball. Barring contact by an opponent, if the first contact is out of bounds, there is no catch and the pass is incomplete. If a player controls the ball while airborne, but loses possession when he lands, there is no catch. Thus, the ground can cause an incomplete pass.

One fairly common scenario is a player who gains control of a ball in flight while he is in mid-air. He then comes to the ground with a foot just inside the sideline and falls to the ground out of bounds. When the player contacts the ground, the ball pops out from his hands. That may occur either with or without the ball contacting the ground.

Some will argue that is a completed pass because the catch was completed when his foot touched the ground. Admittedly, the player has certainly complied with the exact requirements of the rule, but the key is “possession.” While it appeared to the eye that the player gained possession of the ball, the fact that the ball came loose upon contact with the ground is proof the player did not have sufficient control to satisfy the rule. That sort of qualifies as “evidence after the fact,” but that’s what the rule requires.

That principle applies regardless of where the airborne receiver comes to the ground: out of bounds, inbounds, in the middle of the field or the end zone. In the preceding scenario, the play did not end when the receiver’s foot touched the ground inbounds — the ball remained live. Such a play ends when the receiver touches out of bounds and, as described, the ball becomes loose at the time it is to be declared dead.

Let’s take the same airborne receiver and have him gain control between the hashmarks above the end zone. He then comes to the ground in the following sequence: first foot, second foot, hip, back. The ball pops free when his back contacts the turf. Is that a catch? One argument can be that not only was the catch complete when the first foot touched the ground, but the ball was dead because it was in the end zone. Again, failure to maintain control of the ball until the player has completely come to the ground indicates that the rule requiring possession was not satisfied. The result is an incomplete pass.

The ground cannot commit a personal foul. Perhaps that’s not as widely known as the first two phrases, but it’s certainly valid. That phrase was probably coined by Randy Campbell of the Mountain West Conference. Randy uses that phrase to encourage officials not to stare down at the ground after a play ends (a common fault among prep officials, especially when marking the progress spot). Dead-ball fouls, especially at a sideline, are almost always formulated in the mind of the perpetrator while the ball is live and executed within three seconds after the ball becomes dead.

In order for a late hit to occur, the potential offender must be in proximity of an opponent. Piling on or late hits near the runner are relatively easy to catch because officials tend to watch the player with the ball. Fouls away from the play are more difficult, but only because some crews are not disciplined to keep all 22 players in view after the play ends. It’s not difficult to maintain vigilance for three seconds and it is a key component ofgood dead-ball officiating.

Of course, dead-ball fouls can occur after the threesecond vigilance period. Opponents may begin the dead-ball interval with verbal jousting that escalates to physical confrontation. The syllables themselves may constitute taunting. Officials should monitor all bantering among opponents. If opponents remain near each other after a play ends, there is a potential problem and the nearest official should close in and let his presence be known. In many cases that will be enough to deter any extracurricular activity.

A common distraction to dead-ball officiating is the ball itself. Some officials incorrectly make chasing the ball their first priority after the play ends. That task should be left to the ball boys if the ball has gone outside the sideline and to the players if it remains on the field. It is OK if the game is momentarily delayed while the ball is retrieved. The teams will eventuallyget into the routine of taking care of the unneeded ball.

If necessary and the circumstances permit, an official can fetch the ball once all players have started to return to their huddle or a new position.

Written by George Demetriou. A football official since 1968, he lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 03/08 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Basketball – 5 Minutes with J.D. Collins

Getting to know the new NCAA men’s national coordinator.


Hometown: Hartford City, Ind.

Experience: NCAA national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating; former coordinator of officials for the Mid-American Conference and Summit League; former consultant to the Big Ten Conference; former D-I official for nearly two decades, including two Final Fours. Suffered career-ending injury in 2009-10 season; worked in seven conferences.

REFEREE: How would you describe the current state of officiating?

COLLINS: Across the country we have quality officials doing great work, night in and night out. That gets overlooked. Our missed-call ratio or our accuracy of calls, is extremely high. One play in one game can get a lot of attention, but our officials across the country are doing a great job. I’ve stood in the shoes they stand in. I know how difficult it is to do their job, and they deserve to be credited with doing some outstanding work.

Referee: Block-charge plays continue to be in the headlines. What can be done to increase the accuracy, and does the accuracy change from lead, center and trail when called from those respective spots on the floor?

collins: That’s a chicken and the egg question there. First, on any play, you have to be in the right position to make the call. If the play is coming down the paint, going to the rim, and the lead is in the proper position and has a good angle between the players, he should be able to assess whether the defender is legal prior to that crash happening. The reality is that the center official is straightlined with the defender. Can he see left movement of three to four inches? In that play, the center may not have the best look and the lead needs to address it. Positioning is the key, knowing who the primary is. Overall, one of the things that we overlook is when we’ve got crashes and bodies down, we need to seriously consider having calls. Too many times there are crashes, bodies on the floor, we don’t address the play, and then the game itself gets more physical.

Is there empirical data that says we’re missing block-charge plays? Because I’ve had access that says we’re doing a pretty good job of getting the block-charge plays right. If there’s empirical data out there that says our accuracy isn’t high enough, then we need to address that. But if we’re getting an acceptable rate, then maybe there are other plays that deserve more attention. Are we dealing with a perception that block-charge plays are not correct or are we dealing with reality and the empirical data that says we are or are not? In my infancy at this position, I don’t know that answer.

Referee: What will be your immediate areas of focus relating to mechanics and positioning?

collins: I’m a little hesitant to jump quickly, but what I will say is we need to do a better job overall in stopping the clock on every play, and communicating effectively. Once we blow our whistle on a play, the judgment portion of our officiating is done, and we become communicators. What we’re communicating to the table, to the players, coaches, fellow officials, has to be clear, has to be understandable and can’t just be my favorite signal I use every time. At that point we’re communicating a message, and it needs to be done with a purpose. Stopping the clock on every play will make us better. It will make us slow down and see if our partner has something different, see if our partner even has a call. Slowing down just a touch so that we keep ourselves out of the soup. Stopping the clock on every play is still in the mechanics book, and we will utilize it. That will be an adjustment that many of our officials across the nation will need to adhere to. It’s not that hard. It’s how we began officiating, and we just simply got away from it. That will be a focus of mine. It may be a pretty minor focus, but at the same time I think it’s really important to make us better officials.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 08/15 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Getting It Right – Soldier on After Tragedy

By Paul Hamann

stover picTen-year-old Chris Stover wanted to be a soccer official, but the rules said he had to be 11. The assigner “felt sorry for him and wanted him to work,” recalls his mother, Mari Stover. So he was on the field at 10, working youth matches just like his father, Rick Stover, a longtime basketball and soccer official in Vancouver, Wash. A desire to supplement allowance grew into a passion. By the time Chris started his senior year of high school, he was named Washington’s District 5 Soccer Official of the Year, a passion he only set aside upon his U.S. Air Force Academy appointment.

Rick says that all Chris learned in officiating stayed with him as he worked his way up to the rank of captain, piloting more than 100 successful helicopter rescue missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He understood the leadership aspect,” Rick said. “There’s a power position, but you need other people to work to get things done.”

Indeed, when Chris would show up for work at the Royal Air Force Lakenheath base in England, he would frequently bring coffee for the enlisted men on duty. “And enlisted people and officers don’t usually mesh,” Mari said.

Chris died in January 2014 when his helicopter crashed on a training mission. The unspeakable loss spurred Rick, Mari, their daughter Kelly and local officials to action. It also inspired an unexpected gesture of love for Rick before a game.

Rick’s officiating family approached Mari and him with support and an idea: to start a scholarship in Chris’s name. Capt. Chris Stover Scholarships go to local students who either play varsity basketball or are involved in ROTC. The committee, composed entirely of basketball officials including Rick, selected the first recipients last summer. Rick and Mari support other worthy causes, including the That Others May Live Foundation, which aids families and children of Air Force rescue heroes killed or severely wounded in their duties.

Rick received a simple but poignant bit of support before a high school girls’ basketball game in December. Right before the national anthem — always a difficult moment for Rick — he noticed that one player from each team had walked over to stand next to him. “I had no idea,” he said. “All of a sudden they roll the flag down, and I thought, ‘Why are two players standing beside me?’ And then I figured it out.”

The two coaches told Rick they had organized the show of support in order to humanize the people wearing stripes and to remind them of the importance of relationships in sports.
That’s a lesson that Rick Stover and his fellow officials continue to pass on in memory of a fellow official turned hero.

Paul Hamann has officiated high school basketball since 1996. He is a high school teacher who lives in Vancouver, Wash.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 07/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Baseball – You Can’t Go Home Again

By George Demetriou

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again in 1940. The phrase has come to mean many things, including that attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail. Another thought is that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure.

There is a strong baseball meaning as well. A batter-runner who retreats before reaching first base is out if he returns to the plate. Also, even if he never touched it, a runner who has gone into dead-ball territory cannot return to touch home and avoid being called out on appeal. And last, a runner who legally acquires title to a base may not return to his previous base once the pitcher assumes his pitching position.

However, there are several situations in which a runner can retreat to his base of origin without being deemed a failure. Except where noted, the material applies equally to NFHS, NCAA and pro rules.

Batter’s interference. The rules give the batter a right to swing at the pitch without hindrance. Once the batter has had an opportunity to swing, the catcher has the right to field the ball and make a play.

When a runner is attempting to steal a base, the batter can be guilty of interference if he hits the catcher with his bat on the followthrough, or if his swing brings him over the plate where he interferes with the catcher’s attempt to throw out a runner who is attempting to steal a base or if he makes an unnatural movement that interferes with the catcher.

If the batter interferes and any runner attempting to advance is put out, the contact is ignored. Otherwise, the batter is out and all runners either remain or return to the base occupied at the time of the pitch (NFHS 7-3-5; NCAA 7-11f; pro 6.06c Cmt).

Runner hit by batted ball. Also, if a runner is hit by a fair batted ball before it passes an infielder other than the pitcher, the ball is dead and the runner is out. The batter-runner is awarded first base and is credited with a hit. Other runners advance only if forced (NFHS 5-1-1f, 8-4-2k; NCAA 6-2e, 8-2g, 8-5k; pro 7.08f).

Play 1: With R1 on first and R3 on third, B1 grounds the ball between third and short. The ball hits R1 before it reaches F4, who had been playing deep. Ruling 1: R1 is out. B1 is awarded first and R3 is returned to third.

Leaving too soon and missed bases. When the ball is dead, a runner may return to touch a missed base or one that he left too soon unless he has advanced to and touched or advanced beyond the base at which the infraction occurred (NFHS 8-2-5; NCAA 8-6a AR 2; pro 7.10b AR).

Play 2: B1 hits a home run and misses first base. As he rounds third, he becomes concerned his error was observed by the defense. B1 retouches third and second, returns to touch first and then proceeds to score. Ruling 2: If the defensive team appeals, B1 is declared out for missing first. B1’s return to first was illegal.

If the runner realizes his mistake and is attempting to return to his original base after a fly ball is caught and the ball is thrown out of play, the runner may retouch and the award is made from his original base (NFHS interp.; NCAA 8-6a AR 3; pro 7.10b AR).

Play 3: R1 is on first when B1 hits the ball to deep center field. R1, moving on the pitch, thinks the ball will not be caught. After rounding third, he realizes the ball was caught. R1 retouches third and is heading for second, but has not yet retouched that base when F8’s overthrown ball goes into dead-ball territory. Ruling 3: The fact that R1 was returning is relevant. He may retouch second and first and then proceed to third on the award.

If the runner doesn’t acknowledge his mistake and is not attempting to return to his original base after a fly ball is caught and the ball is thrown out of play, he is given a two-base award from the base last touched. The defense may then appeal the base running infraction. The runner must return to the missed base/base left too soon before proceeding to touch any awarded bases. The award is from the original base (NFHS 8-2-5; NCAA 8-6a AR 3; pro PBUC 6.12).

Play 4: B1 hits a grounder to F4. The throw to first goes over F3’s head into the dugout. B1 misses first. Ruling 4: Although he is awarded two bases, B1 must legally touch each base. If B1 does not touch first before proceeding on the award, he is declared out on proper appeal.

A missed base can be corrected if a runner touches a base after an award. The touching corrects any previous baserunning infraction. That concept is known as “Last time by” and is defined as: If the runner retouches a base or bases in advancing to the awarded base, or in returning to the original base occupied at the time of the pitch, his failure to touch a base in returning is corrected under the theory that touching the base the last time by corrects any previous error (NFHS 2007 interp. #18; NCAA 2-51; pro interp.).

George Demetriou, a resident of Colorado Springs, is the current NFHS rule interpreter for the state of Colorado.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 11/12 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Feature – ‘IT’ Runs in the Family


By Peter Jackel

Mariscal siblings Eduardo, Felisha, Alejandro and Apolinar have found success at the highest levels of soccer officiating.

Nestled between the San Diego Bay and the scenic splendor of the coastal mountain foothills in Southern California are the sprawling sun-kissed expanses of Chula Vista, Calif. Standing inconspicuously in a typical neighborhood lined with palm trees in the city is a home that was broken by definition, but beyond loving and warm by nature. And within its confines, a future first family of four soccer officials was nurtured by a single parent with an iron fist and a compassionate heart.

It was in a five-bedroom cream-colored house at 341 “L” Street where Luz Aurora Mariscal raised her four sons and one daughter as a single parent with all the conviction and love that flowed within her 5-foot-1 frame. Juggling career balls that involved cleaning houses, working with disabled children and taking on physical and occupational therapy, Luz was a master at maximizing the precious few hours of quality time she had with her children — Julian, Alejandro, Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar. All five would grow into respected, productive, beloved adults under the guidance of this light-skinned woman who could communicate so much with just her brown eyes. And four of them would become elite professional officials, empowered by the excellence instilled into them by their mother.


alejandro-on-felisha-updatedAlejandro on Felisha

“Felisha has a unique personality. She has the perfect mix of tenacity, kindness and humor. She is a person with vision and persistence to achieve her goals. I could see these tendencies since we were children. She was the only girl in the family, so she would always follow along and wanted to play with us, the boys, regardless of the activity. Her competitive spirit would always show. … Felisha is a remarkably passionate person, always doing her best whether in sports, school, work, coaching or refereeing.”

Meet the Mariscals

Julian was the first born, arriving in 1979. He was the only Mariscal who did not pursue soccer officiating, opting instead to use his skills in another realm. He works as a welder and fitter for General Dynamics NASSCO, which designs and builds ships in San Diego.

“I think he was the most talented guy of all of us,” Eduardo said. “Everybody in the family thought he was the most talented and athletic.”

Alejandro, known to his siblings as Alex, followed in 1980. He was the first Mariscal to pursue soccer officiating, encouraged his siblings to follow his lead, and serves to this day as their mentor. He is perhaps the busiest of the four siblings, having worked in Major League Soccer, international friendlies, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League.

“I consider Alex to be the leader of our referee family,” Felisha said.

Felisha came along in 1982. Described by Alejandro as having “the perfect mix of tenacity, kindness and humor,” she has achieved the highest certification among her siblings. Ironically, Felicia, a FIFA International assistant referee who recently became eligible to officiate International Men’s Friendly matches, perhaps had the most difficult journey ascending through the officiating ranks.

The family was filled out in 1984 by twin brothers Eduardo and Apolinar, the latter of whom answers to Polo, and is the youngest by five minutes. They are certified to work MLS lines and continue to follow their older siblings to the top.

“With Apolinar and Eduardo being identical twins, when I see them for the first time, I wait until they are together to say hello and call them, ‘A&E,’” said Craig Lowry, who has worked with Alex as an MLS and PRO assistant referee and has trained Apolinar and Eduardo as U.S. Soccer ARs. “After speaking with them for a few minutes, I can tell who is who.”

All four have progressed to such an extent as officials that Nasser Sarfarez, director of referee instruction in Southern California, proudly notes, “The Southern California referee community realized that The Fabulous Four are here to stay.”

“It’s common to have two (siblings),” said Arturo Angeles, the California south director of instruction for referees and a national instructor and assessor for U.S. Soccer. “But to have four and to have them at the professional level is very rare. Four is highly, highly unusual.”

What elevates the Mariscals to even greater heights is the quality of human beings they are. That’s the one aspect that supersedes their officiating prowess.

“Immediately,” Lee Popejoy, a national instructor and assessor, answered when asked when he envisioned future elite status for the Mariscals as officials. “They’ve always been serious, they’ve always been focused, they’ve always asked questions, they always listened … they were people who really wanted to become involved. They did what you would expect a top-level student to do.”

A rush of words regarding the Mariscals come to mind for Dr. Herb Silva, a national referee instructor and assessor for U.S Soccer.

“When I think of the Mariscal officiating family,” he said, “the following observations come to mind: They are committed, professional, respectful, competent, humble, loyal, flexible, dependable, knowledgeable and trustworthy.”

Sandra Serafini, PRO women’s referee manager and former official, agrees that the Mariscals are special.

“They take the concept of sibling rivalry and completely turn it on its head,” Serafini said. “I’ve never seen a family that propels each other to be the absolute highest version of what they can be, whether that be with their fitness, their professionalism, their officiating, their careers, their lives.”


felisha-on-alejandro-updatedFelisha on Alejandro

“Alex is always checking in with each of us, making sure we are OK and is always asking us how our games went, dissecting each play and call with us. Even though, the four of us were coaches at one point of our lives, I know that if I have questions about training or an injury, Alex is always there to reach out to for advice. He has a profound knowledge of sports injuries and has an incredible mind for sports science. He is a great older brother who is always looking after us on and off the field. After the passing of our father a year and half ago, Alex, along with our eldest brother Julian, was always there to ensure we were doing OK to get through that difficult and unsettling time in our lives. To this day he is still instrumental in helping us all process how to keep moving forward with the loss.”

Home Base

Their base was Luz. All her children responded to her unyielding insistence that there were always more gold nuggets of excellence to be chisled within the souls of each of them. She even questioned — and fully expected an answer — why the occasional A-minus one of them brought home couldn’t have been an A. She encouraged them to pursue high school sports and made an enormous daily commitment when Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar went on to compete for international running legend Steve Scott at Cal State San Marcos. Nothing was too much for her kids.

“It was a very tight family,” Scott said. “In the early years, she would drive them to practice — and Chula Vista is a good hour’s drive away — and then drive home. And then she would come back and pick them up after practice in the evening and drive home again. So it was like four hours of driving a day.”

But then, Luz always went to great lengths for her children. To ensure her children were raised in a safe environment, Luz even bought a home one block east of Chula Vista High School to maximize their safety to the venue she deemed most essential in their lives. Education was everything to Luz. This is a woman who took pride in her work, however menial it could be, but damned if her children were ever going to scratch out a living, as her lot in life turned out to be.

“My mother, who only finished high school, managed to work three jobs to make sure we had everything we needed,” Eduardo said. “She always encouraged us to keep studying since she understood the struggles of working without a college degree.”

Throughout their pursuit of excellence, idyllic childhood memories linger for the Mariscal family. There are no ugly images of gangs infiltrating their streets as darkness descended. Fresh graffiti occasionally could be seen scrawled on some wall, but the city always seemed to have it painted it over by the following morning. Their high school exploits included soccer, basketball, boxing, volleyball, cross country and track, sports they managed to master while bringing home the straight-A grade reports that Luz expected.

“My mom has so many awards at home that she filled up a wall,” Alejandro said. “She kept all our trophies. Everyone was successful in athletics.”

The paradox is there wasn’t much to be found in the Mariscal household in terms of material possessions at the time voices of the Mariscal kids were echoing throughout the warm confines. But that never mattered. All that mattered was the bond that existed between the six inhabitants of 341 “L” Street and what a loving bond that was. Luz managed to scrape together just enough dollars to spring for a family trip to Disneyland every Christmas. There were the three movies for the price of one they would regularly watch together at The Vogue Theater in Chula Vista, with “Speed,” “Unbreakable,” “The Lion King” and “Dumb and Dumber” among the titles remaining prominent on their mental marquees.

On Dec. 31, the five children would routinely travel south of the border to celebrate the birthday of their father, Eduardo, a lawyer who remained a loving presence on the edges of their lives. Scores of cousins — “The last time I counted, we had 57,” Alejandro said — would also be on hand for the elder Eduardo’s birthday and the Mariscal clan has fond memories of bringing in the new year together within the Mexican border one day after their father’s birthday. The elder Eduardo, who died in September 2014, often traveled north to Chula Vista to be a face in the crowd during his children’s sporting events.

“My dad always tried to be there, at least in the big moments,” Alejandro said.

But if the elder Eduardo was a somewhat distant mentor, Luz was their compass. Her kids were raised with an enduring foundation, the basis of which could be found every Sunday morning at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, a mile north of their home.

“I wanted to teach them values, to have faith in God,” said Luz, who separated from the elder Eduardo in 1993 and then went through a divorce six years later. “I tried to set examples and we were a very united family. We would go to church as a family and we were always together at dinner time. I would bring them to houses I was cleaning and they would experience how hard it was. They needed to work to help at home.”

Luz wasn’t about to go through the motions as she carried out her exhausting professional housecleaning chores. As her children watched her carrying loads of laundry, triple-checking for one last speck of dust on a shelf and meticulously smoothing a bedspread until it was devoid of any wrinkles, the Mariscal children absorbed tendencies that they would one day apply to their soccer officiating careers.

“My mom was a very hard worker,” Apolinar said. “I think from a young age, we learned to value everything that we had. It was very limited and I knew that when my mom said, ‘Hey, you have to do your work, she was right. I could see her point. Even though we were very, very young, mentally, we were mature. It was never like, ‘Oh, she’s just being a mom.’ She was right.”

So when the day came when Luz informed her children they were old enough to take on jobs to help make ends meet, acceptance dwarfed any semblance of reluctance. Their time had arrived.

“My mother told my siblings and me that we either had to get a job at a fast food restaurant or start refereeing,” Eduardo said.


apolinar-on-eduardo-updatedApolinar on Eduardo

“When I think of my brother, Eduardo, the first thing that comes into my mind is persistency and work rate. Persistency and work rate have helped him accomplish many things. My brother understands that in life you will fail and it is OK if, and only if, you learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. From what I remember, I have never seen him quit anything in his life. When my brother sets a life goal he likes to pursue it until accomplished.”

The Bond of Refereeing

Soccer officiating had been swirling the air for the Mariscal kids, all of whom excelled in the sport at Chula Vista, since 2000. That’s when Bob Flores, soccer coach at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, informed his players that officials in the area were needed. Alejandro, a 20-year-old member of the team, was one of those who listened with both ears.

“He would always encourage us to be immersed in the game,” Alejandro said of Flores. “He would encourage us to jump to the next level as players or become referees. There were three on the team who became interested and, of those three, I was the only one who kept refereeing.”

Alejandro, who was also making deliveries for Kentucky Fried Chicken at this time, didn’t like working in the food business and steered his younger siblings to concentrate on officiating. He was picking up speed on that same course, attending a clinic and qualifying as a Level 8 referee. On the recommendation of Popejoy, Alejandro was invited to a youth camp in the summer of 2001 and was seen by Heroes Baghoumian, former FIFA referee and Cal South State Youth Administrator. The following year, Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar joined him and, by 2004, all four were invited to attend a youth regional in Hawaii. The family bond was as tight as ever as they elevated their respective skills to a new level.

“It was the first time all four of us got to travel together,” Eduardo said. “It was a wonderful experience, refereeing the best teams in Region 4. It definitely helped having my siblings along since it made us all stronger. We had the trust to talk about our doubts, weaknesses and uncertainties and we were able to bring ourselves up.

“Refereeing really helped us bond together even more because, in this job, you need a lot of support from loved ones. The fact that we were all referees made it more special since we were able to understand what we were going through.”

With that mutual understanding came an epiphany.

“The camp as a whole,” Felisha said, “inspired us to look beyond what initially got us started in refereeing and to set bigger goals for ourselves — the hope as professional referees that someday, we might be at the FIFA level to represent the United States at international tournaments.”

The four Mariscals consistently impressed their superiors with their professionalism, competency and command. Furthermore, they were at least as fit as the athletes they officiated, with Scott’s demanding practices having elevating their physical states to a new level.

“What soccer officials have to go through to get into shape is nothing compared to what I put them through,” Scott said. “I think it really prepared them for moving into that profession. They would not be afraid of anything that soccer would throw at them.”

Just ask Safarez.

“Progress on the field continued as the siblings impressed the referee leaders in all areas of youth, adult, collegiate and professional soccer to receive an increased number of invitationals to major events,” Sarfarez said. “All four were the prime example of what fitness means to a soccer referee at a high level when they effortlessly completed every possible fitness test.”

Like any official, each of the Mariscals experienced their growing pains. Ironically, it was Felisha, who has earned the highest qualification in her family to date, who endured the most as she ascended through the ranks. And this had nothing to do with her ability.

“After I graduated from youth games, I got more assignments to officiate men’s adult amateur leagues,” she said. “This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of refereeing yet. Every game was a constant struggle to keep the authority as the official in control. Many of the players and coaches doubted my ability to handle the pace and apply the Laws of the Game. On many occasions, they would remind me of my gender and try to perpetuate their own expectations of who should be officiating their games.

“After a few of these games, I would drive home frustrated, sometimes questioning and second-guessing if I should keep refereeing. During this point in my career, I wish I would have known that by going through this turmoil, I was molded into being a better referee physically, mentally and emotionally. I would have not been ready to do women’s or men’s professional games had I not been forced to meet with passionate players of this sort ahead of time.”

All four have arrived, bringing integrity and extreme competence to their assignments. The Marsicals have occasionally pooled their talents in various incarnations and their communication skills are something to behold. One example was June 11, 2011, when Alejandro, Eduardo and Apolinar worked a match together between Mexico Sub 22 and Venezuela in Las Vegas. Alejandro served as the center referee while Apolinar and Eduardo were the assistant referees.

“This was not an easy game to referee especially because both teams are really difficult to referee,” Eduardo said. “This game was a test for us as a family working together. We know each other so well that I knew my brothers knew what to expect from me and vice versa. There was complete trust and, even though the communication devices did not work as planned, it did not matter since my brother knew us so well and he was able to read our body language.

“This was the first time my mother came to see us referee and she had the biggest surprise because, no matter which referee the fans were yelling at, it was one of her children.”

Seventeen days later, on June 28, the Mariscals upped the ante to four of a kind when the three brothers and one sister officiated an Open Cup match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Orange County County Blues at Cal State-Fullerton. It was the only time to date that all four have shared a field in the realm of professional officiating and the communication that went on between them was almost worth the price of admission by itself.

“I had worked with them at times for exhibition matches or in adult and youth league games,” Felisha said. “Calling a match with my brothers seems to come easier as we can communicate easier using gestures, eye contact, head nods and other forms of body language since we know each other so well.

“In all our games, we are each other’s biggest support, source of critique and training ally. We make a point to watch each other’s games and scrutinize the breakdown afterward. Not a family function goes by when, inevitably, a careful analysis of refereeing soccer begins to surface.”


eduardo-on-apolinar-updatedEduardo on Apolinar

“Something I can say about my brother Polo is that he is grateful of the help we received and appreciative of those who gave us that help. Many of the people who helped us never realized what an impact they made. By helping one of us, all four benefitted. Polo feels that giving back to those in need is the best way to pay it forward. I see that it doesn’t matter how busy he is, he will always find a way to give a hand to a friend or someone in need, such as, free math tutoring or mentoring upcoming referees. The way Polo works with upcoming referees resembles the way he works with his math students; he treats both of his professions as an opportunity to help others succeed.”

‘The Best They Can Be’

It was all about achievement to the highest degree for these young adults. And as they ascended the ranks of officiating, they each fulfilled Luz’s desire to make something genuinely meaningful of their lives. Felisha teaches advanced placement Spanish at Chula Vista High School. Eduardo teaches mathematics at Mira Costa Community College and Polomar Collage. Apolinar also is a mathematics instructor at those two colleges as well as Cal State University. Even Alejandro, who centers his professional life on soccer officiating more than any of his siblings, doubles as a Spanish translator.

It’s called getting the most out of their lives, just as Luz consistently encouraged them to do. And the wisdom she has passed along burns brightly within each of her children, leaving a lasting impression on anyone with whom they cross paths.

“These young people have had such an outstanding support system since they were small,” said Sandra Hunt, national assessor and instructor for U.S. Soccer. “And it shows. When you meet them, they look you right in the eye. I assign them for college soccer and have worked with them for years as they worked their way up the professional ranks and they look you in the eye and shake your hand very firmly when you meet them. They have what we call, ‘It.’”

Popejoy routinely worked matches at Chula Vista when the Mariscals were in high school. What he remembers were gifted athletes with minimal ego but ample sportsmanship with the drive to succeed.

“They were at the top academically and they always supported each other,” Popejoy said. “I’ve been at games where one of them is refereeing and, after the game, they sit down in the stands, they talk about the game and things they can improve. They’re a positive family. They have a mother who required that they do the things they’re supposed to do as kids in a positive way. They accepted her 100 percent and they all worked together.”

Scott saw those same qualities when he coached Felisha, Eduardo and Apolinar at Cal State San Marcos. Not only could they handle everything this demanding coach threw at them in practice, they routinely gave him back so much change for each of the figurative dollars he invested in each of them.

“They never missed a workout,” he said. “They were just a very dedicated, hard-working bunch. They were dedicated to the classroom, dedicated to their running, dedicated to the team and just very, very nice people. We would go up to Mammoth Mountain (in Sierra, Nev.) before the cross country season started and they were always willing to help in the kitchen with anything that was needed. All the others would be horsing around, but they would always want to help and go above and beyond what was expected of them.”

And as all four continue to solidify their identities as professional soccer officials, they have each other to thank, not to mention that smallish woman with the enormous heart who made it all possible.

“I have been blessed to have my siblings as referees and to be able to referee with them,” Eduardo said. “We have pushed each other to become better referees. We have always been united and I believe that is what made us so strong throughout our careers. I thank my mom for a great deal of our success since she always supported us,”

Added Felisha, “My brothers grew up together not only as siblings, but also as athletes, students, coaches and as professional referees. We are each other’s best friend and I know I can count on any of them.”

And through it all, a tired mother who used to balance three jobs looks on with enormous pride, satisfied that all her sacrifices were worth the struggle.

“I am very, very proud of them,” Luz said. “I feel so happy. I think they turned out to be the best they could be. When people think about them, they like them. People tell me what they think of my children and all I can say is that I’m proud of them.”

Peter Jackel is an award-winning writer from Racine, Wis.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 05/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Volleyball – Over and Doubt


One Misplaced Pass Can Lead to Many Possible Faults

By Suzanne Dodd

Crushing an opponent’s overpass can be one of the surest ways for a team to win a point and gain momentum. It’s a foolproof way to excite any hard-hitting attacker, the attacker’s team and the fans. Big middle hitters dream about smacking down the overpass while the defenders flail about helplessly.   

When a team’s first contact either enters the plane of the net or passes completely beyond the plane of the net, an overpass has occurred. A smart opposing hitter will take advantage of the poor pass and go for the kill, setting up as many as five possible outcomes on the play. That creates a lot of information for a first referee to process — all within a split second.

The set-up.

When any part of the ball enters the plane of the net, either team has a right to the next contact. If the overpassed ball occurs on service reception, the receiving team will rarely have a blocker in place for defense and the missed pass often results in a strong attack or carefully directed blocking action by the serving team. If the misplaced pass occurs at any other time during the play, blockers and/or setters will often be at the net, creating a more challenging situation for the referees.

The possibilities.

With at least five possible outcomes on an overpass, a referee must be in good position, pay attention to the timing of the contact(s), anticipate who might make the play, and show good court awareness.

The first cue the referee should look for is the position of the ball with respect to the net plane. A ball may be legally contacted by either team once any part of the ball enters the vertical plane of the net.    

To judge ball position, the referee should be centered directly down the plane of the net as the ball approaches. The referee’s focus should then quickly shift to the ball to determine who contacted it first if there are players at the net. 

It is important to note that while an overpass may not appear to be an attack hit, by definition, any ball directed toward the opponent’s court is considered an attack hit and may be legally blocked by the opponent. However, attacking a ball that is entirely on the opponent’s side of the net is illegal. A referee must be sure that the ball entered the net plane before the opponent may attack it. 

Since a ball that is in the plane of the net is fair game for either team, if players on both sides simultaneously contact the ball, it is possible for the ball to momentarily come to rest between the two opponents. A “joust” is a legal contact, and play continues. After a joust, if the ball immediately lands out of bounds, the team on the opposite side of the net is at fault as it has provided the impetus to send the ball out of bounds.

Timing and anticipation are important skills for making the correct call at the net. When a ball is falling near the net, players on both sides may attempt to make a play on the ball. Therefore, the referee must anticipate the timing of the contact(s), and determine who hit the ball first. 

The sequence of contacts is especially relevant when a back-row player is involved in the play at the net. Identifying the setter’s position before a rally begins is imperative so that the correct call can be made immediately. However, if a referee is unsure about the setter’s position at the time of contact, it is acceptable to make a delayed fault call for an illegal attack or block by the back-row player. When a back-row setter contacts the ball that is in or near the plane of the net, the key question to ask is: Which team made the next contact? If the opponents made the next contact, then an illegal attack should be called if the ball was entirely above the top of the net when the back-row setter contacted it. If, instead, the next contact is made by a player on the same team as the back-row setter, then play continues. The result is entirely different if the back-row setter is near the net but the opponents contact the ball first and block the ball into the back-row setter. If the back-row setter is reaching higher than the height of the net, then the setter becomes an illegal blocker.

As if concentrating on the position of the ball, sequence of events, positions of the players, and proximity to the net is not enough, the referee must also judge the legality of the ball contact. An overpassed ball can present problems for the next player to contact it, but especially for a setter trying to save the ball. In trying to keep the ball on the same side of the net, the setter may attempt a set and double contact the ball. Maybe the setter will decide to go for the kill and dump the ball, in which case a caught or thrown ball becomes a possibility. The referee must also look for the opponent to over-control the ball during a block, making a catch/throw a possibility.

The overpass creates a demanding situation for a referee. There are many factors for the referee to process, many possible faults, and some ways for play to continue. The referee must be on his or her toes to determine: a) the location of the ball in relation to the net; b) who touches the ball first; and c) the position of the player(s) who make contact with the ball. Further increasing the complexity of the situation, the referee must also be alert to net contact by either team, possible centerline violations and the height of the ball at contact. 

Be ready. Know the rules. Think fast.

Suzanne Dodd, Greenville, S.C., is a PAVO National volleyball referee and line judge and a USA Volleyball Junior National referee. She is adjunct faculty at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., in the Department of Kinesiology.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 04/14 issue of Referee Magazine.)

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